Providing Information and Advice

1. Why the Provision of Good Information and Advice is Important

Information and advice services enable people, carers and families to take control of, and make well-informed choices about their Care and Support and how they fund it. Not only does information and advice help to promote people's Wellbeing by increasing their ability to exercise choice and control, it is also a vital component of preventing or delaying people's need for Care and Support.

Under Section 4 of the Care Act the Local Authority must establish, co-ordinate and maintain a service (or services) that provide accessible, up-to-date, accurate, comprehensive but proportionate advice and local information relating to Care and Support for people and Support for carers.

The Local Authority can provide information and advice services directly or it can do so through partnership/collaboration with communities, other agencies or a relevant partner. Some information or advice may be more accessible when provided impartially (for example advice in relation to challenging a decision made by the Local Authority).

Information and Advice

2. When to Provide Information and Advice

The Local Authority must be proactive in its identification of opportunities to offer information and advice at all stages of Adult Care and Support processes and regardless of whether the person (or carer) is already receiving a Care and Support (or Support) service.

The timing and proportionality of information and advice provision should be considered. For example, providing too much information during a time of crisis may not be helpful. Likewise failing to provide information about the assessment process beforehand does not support the person to prepare for it. The practitioner providing the information and advice should be suitably skilled so as to support the person (or carer) to understand and explore what information and advice they may (or may not) need. 

Important to know
When offering advice about the meeting of Care and Support needs, either currently or in the future the Local Authority must always consider its duty to prevent/delay and/or reduce needs.
Important to know
The duty to provide information and advice is section 4 of the Care Act. Whenever a document or person refers to section 4 of the Care Act they are referring to the duty to provide information and advice, even if they do not specifically use that phrase.

3. Who to Provide Information and Advice to

Important to know
The Information and Advice Duty under the Act applies to everyone in a Local Authority area, not just those people with Care and Support needs or carers with Support needs. This means that information and advice must be provided to people regardless of their eligibility for other services from Adult Care and Support.

People who are likely to need information and advice include, but are not limited to:

  1. People (and/or their families) wanting to plan for their future Care and Support needs;
  2. People (and/or carers) who may have developed Care and Support needs (or Support needs), or whose current Care and Support needs (or support needs) may have become greater;
  3. People (and/or carers) who have not presented to the Local Authority for assessment but who are likely to be in need of Care and Support (or Support);
  4. People (and/or carers) who have been referred to the Local Authority (or who have self referred) and are either awaiting allocation for an assessment or other course of action;
  5. People (and/or carers)who have already been assessed and are in receipt of Care and Support from the Local Authority;
  6. People (and/or carers) whose Care and Support plans (or Support plans) are currently being reviewed;
  7. People who are subject to adult safeguarding concerns;
  8. Informal or paid carers, professionals or agencies who have concerns about a person with needs for Care and Support;
  9. People seeking information about financial matters concerning care and support, including understanding the financial implications of any Care and Support needs, a Direct Payment or an appointeeship;
  10. People ( and/or their families) wishing to complain, question or challenge a decision made by the Local Authority; and
  11. Care and support staff who have contact with and provide information and advice as part of their jobs.

4. The Information and Advice that must be Provided

In order to support people the Local Authority must make sure information and advice is provided on the following matters in particular;

Type of Information/Advice Example
The local Adult Care and Support System Referral process, Assessment process, eligibility criteria, safeguarding, advocacy, aids and adaptations, Telecare
The choice/types of Care and Support available (including providers details and the cost of services) Reablement, Residential placements, Specialist provision, community-based/informal services such as befriending
How to access the Care and Support available How to request an assessment or review, how to access as a self funder, how long it may take
Personalised information specific to needs Health information around conditions, NHS Continuing Healthcare, support available for carers to meet needs informally and develop skills
Financial Information and Advice Disabled Facilities Grant, financial assessment process, likely contributions
Raising concerns How to make a safeguarding referral, advice on recognising abuse, advice on protecting self from abuse
Transition from children's services Process of transition, financial implications, joint working
Advice for people moving into the area with Care and Support needs Cross border and Continuity of Care arrangements
Complaints How to complain or appeal against a decision or action of the Local Authority, Advocacy
Legal advice Appointeeship, the Court of Protection, Lasting Power of Attorney and becoming a Deputy
Housing Advice Local Authority housing availability, housing related support options (e.g. Extra Care), process of requesting accommodation
Employment and training Availability of employment and training for disabled adults
Any other areas relevant to that Local Authority Recreational facilities, libraries, information centres

5. How to Provide Information and Advice

Advice and information content should, where possible, be provided in the manner preferred by the person requesting it. This is what the term 'accessible' means and also demonstrates consideration for the person's wishes (one of the things the Local Authority must have regard to in order to promote wellbeing).

Whilst large numbers of people now have access to the internet, the Care Act statutory guidance warns against reliance on digital means alone, and makes clear its stance that duties under the Act cannot be fulfilled by doing so. It is therefore to be expected that information and advice will need to be available in a number of different formats.

The following methods should be considered when providing information and advice:

  1. Face-to-face contact;
  2. Use of peer-to-peer contacts;
  3. Community settings;
  4. Advice and Advocacy services;
  5. Telephone;
  6. Mass communications, and targeted use of leaflets, posters (for example: in GP surgeries);
  7. Use of 'free' media such as newspaper, local radio stations, social media;
  8. The Local Authority internet websites, including support for the self-assessment of needs;
  9. Third party internet content and applications; and
  10. Email.

6. Information and Advice for People with Specific Communication Needs

Reasonable adjustments should be made to ensure that disabled people, people with substantial communication difficulties (including people with sensory impairment or where English is not their first language) and people with difficulties engaging have equal access to information and advice services. Reasonable adjustments could include the provision of information in accessible formats or arranging for communication support or advocacy.

Where the Local Authority has provided information or advice to a person with (or with the appearance of) Care and Support Needs or a Carer with (or with the appearance of) Support needs and there is a view that the person or Carer will not be able to act on the advice or information provided (either due to a lack of Mental Capacity or other difficulty), the Local Authority should consider how it can support the person to access it.

There is no duty upon the Local Authority at this stage in the Care and Support function to provide independent advocacy under Section 4 of the Act, but the statutory guidance describes the consideration of advocacy or other support as good practice.

7. Specific Requirements on provision of the Information and Advice around Finances

Information and advice around finances is one of the most common reasons for people and /or families/carers to contact the Local Authority and hence the Care Act provides specific guidance about what should be available.

Good financial information and advice is integral to a person's consideration of how best to meet both immediate and future Care and Support needs. People who have received good information and advice have a much better understanding of how their available resources can be used more flexibly to fund a wider range of care options.

Important to know
Before providing financial information or advice directly to a person the local authority should establish whether the person has a Deputy of the Court of Protection or a person with Lasting Power of Attorney acting on their behalf.

Information and advice the Local Authority must provide (either directly, through a partner organisation or through signposting the person to independent financial advice services) includes:

  1. Understanding care charges (including how much may have to be paid and why, how financial contributions are assessed, the implications of choosing different services on potential contributions, residential charges and top ups);
  2. Ways to pay any assessed financial contribution to the Local Authority (including local arrangements for invoicing, payment of Direct Payment contributions and deferred payment agreements);
  3. Ways to pay a care provider (when the person is likely to be self funding);
  4. Money Management and financial planning to meet the costs associated with immediate or future Care and Support needs (including welfare benefits, advice on good money management, help with basic budgeting and possibly on debt management);
  5. Making informed financial decisions (including considering the timing and context of any retirement decisions a person might be making and how this interacts with paying for their care and support);
  6. Advice for people who feel at risk of financial exploitation;
  7. The cap on care costs, when preparing for its introduction in 2020; and
  8. Facilitating access to independent financial information and advice (including making people aware of specific sources of information and advice that are available and why they may be beneficial to them, what the costs of using the services may be and giving information about how to access them).
Important to know
Some financial advice can be specialist or complex and the Local Authority may not be best placed to provide it. Some financial information and advice may also be better given impartially (for example, when a person wishes to find out how to appeal against a Local Authority financial assessment outcome). In these situations the Care Act places a responsibility on the Local Authority to make sure suitable information and advice services are available and provided and that it is able to support the person to access the most appropriate information and advice for their situation and circumstances.
Important to know
When a person seeks information about accessing independent regulated financial advice the Local Authority can direct the person to a range of services regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority but it must not recommend a specific provider.

Decisions around Care and Support are often made in times of crisis and people, families or carers may not be in a position to understand the financial implications. It is therefore important that people are:

  1. Provided with information and advice relating to finances as many times as it is required; and
  2. Given information and advice about financial matters early so they have time to plan arrangements for a crisis before it occurs. The Care Act places a responsibility on the Local Authority to proactively identify people in its area who may benefit from financial advice. This involves the Local Authority being proactive in making information available through its own resources (for example the internet, leaflets and other advertising) and through Relevant Partner agencies (for example health).